As well as a real glut of Mario games, yesterday's Nintendo Direct featured an impressive collection of JRPGs, but while that might be par for the course for Nintendo, one of those games looks like the most JRPG of all time.
That would be Saga Emerald Beyond, and from almost the first frames of its trailer, which you can check out below, I was struck by just how clearly it attached itself to the trappings of its genre. I'll start with the keyart, which you can see in the image of the top of this article and which features the painterly art style and chaotic roster that feels to me like peak JRPG.
Let's dwell on that roster; first up is a dude in a classic 'cool guy' jacket, complete with cool guy hair and a cool guy frown. He does fight with puppets, which I think detracts from the vibe he's trying to cultivate, but maybe I'm just a hater. The spirit of a voiceless songstress inhabiting a mech is a cool idea, the 'King of Darkness' and 'powerful witch disguised as a schoolgirl' feel like pretty common tropes about which I will say as little as I can. The final two members of the roster are a crime-fighting duo consisting of a woman in a cowboy hat and a minigun-wielding woman in a Hijab, so credit where it's due, because I've not seen that before.
From there, I feel like we tick off a lot of genre staples; there's turn-based combat, although it's of the kind that lets you manipulate the rate at which different units act, which I do enjoy; there's an overworld where the character seems much bigger than their environment; visual novel-style dialogue; combat arenas filled with team combos featuring characters leaping in front of the light of a full moon.
I'm not the world's most pre-eminent JRPG expert, and I'm told that this is pretty much what SaGa is known for, but I'm still struck by just how much of a JRPG this is. It's far from a bad thing - classics are classic because people like them, and attempts to recapture those ideas are just as important as a desire to push genres forward. If that sounds like your jam, SaGa Emerald Beyond launches on Nintendo Switch next year.
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